Kiwi colloquialisms distract

April 19, 2010
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Containment, by Vanda Symon (Penguin, RRP $28):

There’s no doubting Dunedin-based author Vanda Symon’s talent as a writer and I certainly enjoyed most of this book, the third to feature stroppy chick/newbie detective Sam Shepherd.

However, I don’t know that a reader who wasn’t so familiar with the southern part of New Zealand would find it such an easy read: most people reading this review would understand what the author is talking about when she mentions the Octagon and goes on to describe Robbie Burns “looking down, doing his best to look nonchalant” but overseas readers – and even more northern Kiwis – might not know the Octagon is Dunedin’s central city area and Robbie Burns a statue.

There were little snippets scattered through the story that would probably confuse anyone not familiar with the geography and/or idiosyncracies of this part of the world and, I have to admit, I did find them a wee bit distracting. Which was a shame, because for the most part this was a really good read.

I’m rather fond of a good murder mystery and Symon has certainly delivered that, with a grounded ship, a bashed cop and some dirty dealings chucked in for good measure.

The story kicks off at Aramoana, where a bunch of containers from a ship have washed up on the beach and some of the locals are busy scavenging for everything they can get their hands on. Detective Sam Shepherd is in the middle of it all, trying to control the looters, when one of them turns on her.

From there, the story grows and goes off in often unexpected directions. After the discovery of the body of a young man dumped in the ocean, an array of interesting and colourful characters slowly emerge and the story pulls you in.

This is an easy read but it does have a nice twist or two.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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